There he is, on the field, number 10. My baby. No, wait, that is not correct, he is not a baby anymore. He is 8 years old. But he is still my baby. Will always be my baby. But I should not treat him like a baby, and he does not want to be treated like a baby. Well, that is except for all those times when he wants all the baby-ing I can give, such as being wrapped in my arms, snuggling in bed, cuddling with his teddy bear and his blankie, with hot cocoa.
So you can see my confusion.
Little League. A league of littles. And yet I'm supposed to be okay with hardballs flying by my firstborn's skull. Being in "real" baseball now means that they are playing with "real" baseballs. Hard baseballs. The only players wearing helmets are the batters. And I am supposed to be okay with this. I am supposed to hear on the tv news about the boys who have been hit in the head, sometimes fatal injuries, and then after hearing this news, I am supposed to sit happily and calmly on the bleachers, and watch same such balls fly by my own child's skull.
I am working on it. Overall, in my life as a mother, I am working on not being too overprotective. I don't want to smother my children, or make them nervous to try new things, or inhibit their freedom and independence by my warning about every jungle gym and sharp stick. But it is a work in progress. When they are perched up high, I am not worried about a broken arm, my mind goes to fall, snap neck, life over. When they are dueling with pointy sticks in the yard, I am not worried about a scratch, I am envisioning an eyeball on the end, like a skewered campfire marshmallow. But I also know that most times there are no broken necks or poked out eyeballs, so I try and balance my worry with their need to play and explore.
And now there are sports. The first time I saw a full size basketball flying towards my son's head, I yelled out a warning. This was at basketball practice in a gym, with a bunch of 8 year old boys. Not the coolest mom action.
There are also the emotions. Up until now, I am used to being able to fix most every emotion with a kiss, a cuddle or a tiny bandaid. But part of allowing the independence is also allowing the emotions to be dealt with by the child themself. So far in baseball, my 8 year old son cried the first time he struck out at the plate, he was hit by a ball in the arm while batting, and hit in the back by a bat. This is hard for a mother, for a mother's heart.
I deep sigh. A lot. I am guessing that, as I've seen with other new experiences for me as a parent, I will be surprised in the future how hard it was for me in the beginning.
But when it comes to safety, is there such a thing as too careful? Too cautious? Of course I know the answer is yes, that being too worried would prevent my children from experiencing the world. The problem is that keeping my children safe from harm is one of the most essential jobs for me as a parent. And if something were to happen, I don't believe I would hear anyone saying to me "Well, the most important thing is that you were not too overprotective." This comes up in my life as a parent in many different areas, cautious about abduction, cautious around water for children who have not yet learned to swim, cautious about a dog that seems unsafe. And many people voice their opinions, often in dissent. Family, friends, even strangers on the playground, all seem very vocal in their opinions.
We all know that, ultimately, every parent must make their own decisions, their own choices, their own rules. And they also have to live with the results of them.
So, I take a deep breath, and march forward. I still cringe when my child gets banged or bumped during a sport, and I must let him deal with it himself. But I know that he is learning, moving forward, toward autonomy and independence. He is not too little for Little League.